Friday Review

The storm that hides down below

When life was valued more than all else The sets of Bhootayyana Maga Ayyu

When life was valued more than all else The sets of Bhootayyana Maga Ayyu  

The Maasti Gudi episode -- the death of two stuntmen in the Thippagondanahalli reservoir -- has rekindled several old memories. Most old timers feel that in the good old days, even when infrastructure for a film unit was not so cutting edge, safety was given utmost importance. Noted cinematographer B.S. Basavaraj recalls the shooting days of the landmark film, Bhootayyana Maga Ayyu, particularly the climax scene of the 1974 film.

“Those were the times, when producer, director and stunt master took utmost care while shooting ‘dangerous stunt sequences’. They refused to shoot ‘risky’ scenes, where life of actors regardless of their importance in the film would be in risky situations. Now, the situation is completely changed and it is money that matters, not life,” laments Basavaraj. Recounting his experience of the climax shot of Bhootayyana Maga Ayyu, Basavaraj, who assisted the chief cinematographer D.V. Rajaram then, says: “Siddalingaiah, director of the film transformed one paragraph from Gorur Ramaswamy Iyengar’s novel into a 20-minute long climax. D.V. Rajaram’s breathtaking cinematography made the climax one of the best shot sequences in the history of Kannada cinema, at a time when Computer Generated Image (CGI) was not in vogue in India.”

In fact, this was claimed to be the first Kannada film to be shot entirely in real location. Siddalingaiah who had an eye for details and was a perfectionist did not want to take any risk while shooting in pouring rain and a flooding Cauvery. Shivaiah, who was the stunt master for the film, was very sure that his first preference was safety of the artistes.

“Eight local swimmers and a few boatmen were hired to meet any exigencies. There was a meeting of the cast and crew, in which they were briefed on the depth of water, water force and location of whirlpools before the commencement of the shooting in Shivanasamudra. Before the meeting, a thorough search and survey of the water body had been done,” recalls Basavaraj, noting how difficult it was to shoot the scene avoiding the ropes tied to rafts. “Present day monitors were not available then. Stunt master was not in the habit of peeping into the camera. All actions began and ended with the ‘action’ and ‘cut’ instruction of the director,” he observes.

The climax scenes -- where artists L.V. Sharada and her children are trying to come out of the riverside house -- as the reservoir breaches and flood water surrounds the house completely, in which Vishnuvardhan takes the raft and sets out to rescue them single handedly, was shot in Kalasapura, Madarayanakatte and Shivanasamudra for nearly 20 days. “Initially a tank was constructed to allow water into the house. But it broke as soon as the camera began to roll. Siddalingaiah got it reconstructed and shot the scene again. Similarly, ropes tied to the raft gave way and started drifting in the current. Expert divers immediately jumped and got hold of it,” he recalls. The scene where villagers ransack Lokesh’s house and set it on fire, Shivaiah had a fire engine stationed; wet gunny clothes were kept for exigencies, besides storing water in drums . “Shivaiah used to say that he doesn’t want to take risk with nature power, fire, water and wind, which was why Bhootayyana Maga Ayyu carved a niche in the history of Kannada cinema. Now things are being taken for granted with the least concern for the life of artistes,” says Basavaraj.

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Printable version | Sep 23, 2020 3:51:50 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/The-storm-that-hides-down-below/article16644600.ece

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